Greater Twin Cities United Way Small Business Philanthropy. Fall 2013. Objectives and Methodology. United Way wants to understand the philanthropic approach of small business owners, both personally and professionally, as well as how Giving Communities fit in a small business setting.
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United Way wants to understand the philanthropic approach of small business owners, both personally and professionally, as well as how Giving Communities fit in a small business setting.
Fusion Hill conducted a focus group with seven small business owners to understand:
Due to the nature of qualitative research, the findings contained in this presentation are based on a non-statistically significant sample size, and therefore, cannot be quantified or generalized to represent an entire population. Insights should be used for directional purposes.
Small business owners’ approach to philanthropy stems from their personal dedication to giving. All participants are involved with organizations that align with their personal passions. Most participants are very active within their chosen organizations, often at the board level as members or chairs.
“I think there is blurred line between personal and business giving. I think of my personal income as what I bring home, but this is profit, and is what I give on.”
“In the personal giving I got involved with United Way because of the dedication to women and helping increase the stability of women in the community. That is where my passions lie.”
“My partner and I have a few organizations that we are personally involved in so we tend to put our money into those organizations. We invest our time at a board level or personal level.”
“We enjoy giving and love to give where our heart is.”
Overall, participants are satisfied with their personal approach to philanthropy, but do identify several challenges:
“It is helpful, like with Feed My Starving Children, [to know] the impact. I asked my daughter how much we could give and did the math [to know how many people that would feed]. It was a huge conversation and it created a picture in my mind.”
“I have been searching for places to focus on … I feel like I could have more impact if I could focus on three [organizations] instead of ten. And that might be more meaningful.”
“The biggest challenge is finding an organization that fits your personal vision that you feel good to commit to.”
On the business side, participants find their approach to philanthropy is much less based on their personal passions and more on client requests and business goals. Business donations often take the form of the business’ service or product, but to make a donation, participants must feel it will generate some returnfor the business itself.
“I think it’s the question, ‘What’s in it for you?’ … What would appeal to you that would be easy to be involved in: to donate time or money or networking or gain additional business?”
“On the giving side we tend to give back to clients because so many clients ask for services back.”
“We give back to the nonprofits that are our clients. We started a program, our Powers For Good program, which is that we slash our margins down [for nonprofit clients] … By being our clients we give back to them by taking money off our bill.”
Since business philanthropy is so driven by returns for the business, participants have several limitations for their business donations.
“Owning a print shop, not a day goes by that we don’t get an email ‘Can we get this for free?’”
“Everything that gets done at my business gets done by me. Small businesses don’t have the capacity to pass it on.”
“I have a hard time with the line of pushing my beliefs on my employees … We try to pick something neutral.”
Most participants feel current GivingCommunities do line up with their personal passions and various commitment levels. However, the current setup does not easily allow them to engage their small business because there are few communities that will generate a return for their business.
“It’s of interest to me at a personal level to know that they have the giving programs. As a business owner I want to give back but I want it to be at a personal level.”
“[Networking] is why I joined United Way, honestly. This is a group of senior women leaders who are all high in their organization. I haven’t seen any business with them but I did fill three positions through this networking.”
“I like giving a check, giving money. I don’t want to give you my time [because I am too busy right now]. Maybe next year [I’ll give time].”
Participants are often strapped for resources so they need help coming up with strategies that fit the needs and capabilities of their business. Develop a program that assists small business owners in creating their own philanthropic business strategy.
“I think the biggest challenge is having the time to come up with and be creative with a campaign.”
“There is an organization that gives 50 percent of their profits. How can they do that? So how is it that they can make that work?”
“[It would be great] if I had a volunteer that could come in for five hours to help, someone to help run the campaign.”
An example of a creative giving strategy that United Way could facilitate for small business owners is connecting them to corporationsthat already partner with United Way. United Way could market the small business by encouraging the corporation to partner with/purchase from them because a portion of the sale would go to United Way.
“For every invoice we sold, would you be willing to buy one more for United Way?”
“Best Buy [partners with United Way] … You could say this is a small business that is willing to donate to a cause you support if you give them business … United Way could market the small business.”
Both personally and professionally, participants want a better handle on the impact of their donations. Encourage organizations that work with United Way to create clear equations of the number of people helped by specific donation amounts.
“I see agencies that talk about pro-bono work and it’s hard to measure the value of what that brings you.”
“Once I was a part of [United Way] I liked that they held the business accountable for the dollar … I increased my giving because I know what happens [with the money].”
“A tax advantage tool is … not the warm fuzzy but it is certainly a way to get the conversation started. The chance is that your heart will follow your head.”
“It would be nice to have volunteer opportunities [for employees].”
While participants are active in their giving, most feel they could do more and want to do more, but are unsure of the next step. Starting an informational campaign about small business or personal volunteer opportunities through United Way would make small business owners aware of how they and their families/employees could help out.
“I think if I was asked more I would do more. I don’t think I get asked enough for all sorts of things, not just for money.”
“I think it would be great … if there was a calendar [of volunteer opportunities] for families on any given week. You can go to a soup kitchen or pack bags for the army.”
“I don’t have time to do the research … I am so much better at responding to something that is pushed to me.”